Here's a story far more interesting than anything you'll watch on YouTube: A prodigal scion of a wealthy family, pitted against his powerful father and an ambitious blonde. It's not a pilot for a new courtroom procedural — it's the tale of Andrew Baron's Rocketboom, an online-video startup held up, inexplicably, as an example of the potential of the medium. Sony's seven-figure deal to distribute Rocketboom is seen by some as evidence that the industry is growing up. But what it really tells us is that having access to a credit line backed by Daddy is as sure a recipe for success online as it was in the old Hollywood. The exciting plot twist: Baron's father was not always happy about the arrangement. We've only learned how daddy-dependent Rocketboom was because Fred Baron loaned his son's company a total of $810,300.40, and then took it to court in order to force repayment last year. If you think it's strange for a father to go after his own son's company in court, then you don't know the elder Baron.He's a leading Dallas attorney who even sued the firm he cofounded, Baron & Budd, and is a regular on blog Overlawyered. More interesting is that Amanda Congdon intervened in order to protect her claim on part of the company. Meanwhile, the younger Baron complains all this legal wrangling tied his dealmaking hands, and that the company nearly went broke twice this year. The Rocketboom episode neatly explains why the world of online video so resembles film school, a parent-funded enterprise of self-indulgent auteurs with macroambitions viewed by microaudiences (including yours truly). Sony's deal doesn't affirm the potential of online video as a means of creative expression; it simply tells us that the rich, despite themselves, can't help getting richer. (Photos by Eric Skiff and Alex de Carvalho)
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